The Fancy Farm Picnic, perhaps the greatest political tradition in the country, is the unofficial kickoff to the fall campaigns.
As we all look forward to West Kentucky barbeque and old-fashioned stump speeches, it is important to remember all that Republicans in Frankfort have accomplished over the last two years, including the following:
1. Right-to-Work & Prevailing Wage Repeal: Right-to-work legislation has led to the rapid expansion of jobs in Kentucky, attracting new companies and bringing our unemployment rate down to a 43-year low. Meanwhile, the repeal of Kentucky’s artificial prevailing wage law on construction projects has saved tens of millions in taxpayer dollars, freeing up more funds for local governments and school districts to invest into their communities and schools.
2. Pro-Life Victories: Kentucky has seen four pieces of strong, pro-life legislation become law in just two sessions. House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 5 from 2017 require mandatory ultrasounds prior to undergoing an abortion and ban all abortions occurring over halfway through a pregnancy. Legislation also passed in 2017 that cuts off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, while House Bill 454 from 2018 bans a particularly violent form of abortion after 11 weeks of pregnancy.
3. Transformative Adoption & Foster Care Reforms: House Bill 1 was the top priority for us during the 2018 session, making historic social services reforms that center around doing what is best for vulnerable children. This legislation will get children out of state care and into loving homes in a much quicker manner, and comes alongside tens of millions in new funding in the budget to hire more social workers and raise their pay.
4. Pro-Education Budget: Speaking of the budget, House Bill 200 was the first all-Republican budget in modern history, and it raised classroom education spending to record highs while investing a record $3.4 billion in teacher and state worker pensions. The increased education funding gives students more of the resources they need to succeed, while also giving districts more dollars and flexibility to meet growing needs, like raising teacher pay. This budget cut the size of government on nearly all other levels in order to prioritize Kentucky’s most critical needs, including education, adoption and foster care and public safety.
5. Gang Crackdown: House Bill 169 gives law enforcement and the justice system greater tools to tackle Kentucky’s growing criminal gang population, which ravish our communities with drugs and violence while recruiting numerous kids into a life of crime.
6. Pension Improvement & Transparency: Record pension funding in the budget came alongside a reform measure that stabilizes the pensions of Kentucky’s public employees, implementing a new and better funding formula while moving all new employees into a plan with better projected returns than what current employees and retirees receive. A measure also became law in 2017 making all legislative pensions open to the public, exposing many of the misdeeds by past politicians who spiked their own pensions while not fully funding those of our public employees.
7. Expanding Educational Opportunities: Legislation making Kentucky one of the last states to offer public charter schools became law in 2017, allowing local school boards to authorize specialized schools designed to assist students who have been neglected by failing school districts. This bill came alongside legislation of my own in 2018 that incentivizes the teaching of work ready, essential skills in our schools, so that students are fully equipped for the working world upon graduation.
8. Drug Crackdown: House Bill 333 in 2017 is a measure which reduces the flow of addictive opioids by only allowing painkillers to be prescribed for three days, unless otherwise medically necessary. This measure, which also stiffens penalties for heroin traffickers, comes alongside an increased focus on treating those who have long suffered from drug addiction.
9. Pro-Growth Tax Reform: Kentucky’s new tax reforms are the first step towards eventually eliminating the state income tax and moving to a system of taxation that better grows the economy and creates a more job-friendly environment. This simplification of the tax code puts more money in working Kentuckians’ paychecks while moving Kentucky from 33rd to 18th in the nation when it comes to states with the best tax environment for job creation.
10. More Resources for Law Enforcement: House Bill 185 greatly increases benefits for the families of our fallen police officers, while also closing a loophole that prevented widows from receive the full survivors benefit to which they are entitled. This measure came alongside public safety funding in the budget to provide more modernized equipment for troopers, like rifles and police cruisers.
These policies have made Kentucky more prosperous, and led to a record-shattering 2017 on the jobs and investment fronts and a promising outlook for the rest of 2018. Our commonwealth has forever been changed for the better.
Representative Jonathan Shell is the Majority Floor Leader in the Kentucky House of Representatives. He represents House District 71, which includes Garrard, Rockcastle, and part of Madison County.
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